"It's a little self indulgent..." - My mom
"After I read a sentence, I get mad at myself for caring what you're doing." -Karl Dusen

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Favorite Pittsburgh Runs #10

Duquesne Heights
While coming back from a month off following my May 2006 seizure, I was limited to running from home, pretty much, so I had plenty of time to explore Mt. Washington and Duquesne Heights. I managed to find some pretty good routes, both including and excluding the McArdle Roadway, and became excited about the prospect of training repeatedly on the hills.
Finishing a run up the McArdle Roadway, while it certainly makes you tough, got old quickly, and if I wasn't able to finish when I was still building my strength and endurance, I was in for a world of trouble, so I started running up and down the streets perpendicular to Virginia Ave, and found most of the time the hills were reasonable enough to justify running them routinely. And I did indeed run this routinely.
Plymouth Street is a bit of a doozy, though. There are a lot of turns, but none are abrupt. The course measures to just under 6.7 miles, but running extra laps around Chatham Village easily tacks on .75 each.
While compiling my list of favorite runs in and out of Pittsburgh, I consider them with little weight to scenery. They are dependable routes that are good for running, usually feature a variety of terrain and hold some personal significance to me. This loop meets all of those criteria, but as a bonus features a marvelous view as a payoff after five miles of relentless hills.

Necessary time off

I took the day off of running because A. I was so tired at work all I could do when I got home was take a nap and B. I was already on pace for 55 miles this week, and there's no reason to push it now.
I am satisfied with that rationale.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pants? At a time like this?

I begrudgingly quote The Hangover because I have not yet made my peace with that movie. When I saw it with Dave and Butch in July, I liked it, but maybe the jocular attitude we carried into it helped lubricate my sense of humor. I saw it again in September with the Elf, Kay and Mike Knight, and I was much more critical. When I watched it on Christmas with my dad, brothers and sister, I liked it a lot more.

Anyway, I use that quotation because upon arriving at B-CC for the Wednesday GRC workout, slightly slipping on ice all over the place, I saw Mike Smith running about in shorts. What a silly idea, I said to myself, it's too darn cold for shorts. I had my first solid stretch in a long time while we waited for Dirk, and then set off on a warmup that included Jake Marren just popping up out of nowhere.

Most of the guys had far more ambitious plans for their 3x mile workout- they started around 5:00. I wanted simply to take a few steps in from my aborted 5:20s workout a few weeks before, and shot for 5:15s. Initially, I wanted to start at 5:20 and drop 5 seconds each interval, but after I got wrapped up in the pack's pacing on the first one and came through the half in 2:35, I realized I should just try to be consistent- even though in a racr, even splits might as well be positive splits. I hit 5:15 for the first two, with 800s that were too fast. On the third mile, I waited a few seconds after the pack (which ended up running 4:40) went out so I didn't get swept away, and managed 79s for the first 1200 until I cut lose in the last 400 and finished in 5:13.

The 200s were not as bad as I expected, since it's just a half lap. I surprised myself with two 31s to start, then came back to usual late-workout form with a 37 for the third. I hadn't recovered during the 200+ jog, and I considered bowing out early, but then I rationalized that I didn't travel out to Bethesda to give up, so I stuck in the last one for another 31 that I swore felt like 36. I'm still heavy, but at least I exhibited the primal urge to sprint tonight. A mile cooldown later, I had nine miles for the day.

While in Pittsburgh, I once again scoured my bedroom and attic in search of the slacks, and was unsuccessful. I even asked my mom to check to see if she had integrated them into her closet, to no avail. It's about time I gave up the search.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Running in the dark, again

Now that I'm back in DC and working, I'm running at night again, and after coming home in 25 degrees with lots of wind and not as much sleep as I would like, the last thing I felt like doing was running. I managed to scrape myself off the floor and run Park Six, gleefully finding all the snow melted, aside from a few piles that had been plowed. I felt light on my legs and ended up running 6:14 pace. It was fun, but then I had to get on my bike and get out to the library to pick up The Cold Six Thousand and to two different running stores to try to find the new Washington Running Report, which I failed to find. My friend and quasi teammate (I graduated two years before he came to Richmond) Matt Llano is on the cover and I assume featured prominently in some article, along with Andrew Benford, Jon Molz, Emily Ward and Jon Wilson, since they all did quite well at the Richmond Marathon and ancillary races.
Mary Bertram and Sherry Hannay made the fall women's rankings and Pat McGuire and Karl Dusen made the men's rankings.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Time to work on my form

There was a change in plans and rather than leaving Pittsburgh for DC at 4 am to get back for work today, my friends and I were scheduled to leave at 4 pm, so I wound up with an extra day in Pittsburgh, which I naturally exploited for an extra day to run there.

My mom has the week off of work, so we drove out to Sewickley and ran there, each having a wonderful time. I did a 10 mile loop, one of my favorite Pittsburgh runs -- a list that is forthcoming -- that started with yet another two-mile uphill. It wasn't as bad as yesterday- it was steeper than yesterday's uphill, so I wound up concentrating on my form, because there's nothing like a steep hill to force you to be as economical and efficient with your mechanics. I feel like for the rest of my run, I stuck to an efficient stride, because I definitely felt it later on.

It was 22 degrees with maybe a half inch of snow, but none on the roads. I didn't have my watch, but the clock in the car passed about 64-65 minutes, so despite not feeling fast (and my pace surely suffered up the hills) I managed a decent 6:30 pace.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

An entire town of nobles

Wabash Avenue, from the starting point of today's run.

I slept in and took off on an out-and-back from the West End into Carnegie. It's probably not the best way to wake up, because about a quarter mile into the run, the course climbs 407 feet over the next 1.75 miles. It's long and demoralizing, but it also means the last two miles is a lot of fun. I follow Noblestown Road for about four miles, which is never really flat, with long hills. After the first climb, the next mile drops 171 feet, and after a short climb, it drops another 305 feet over 1.75 miles until the turnaround. Either way isn't terribly fun, because the hills are long enough to hurt. I once tried to do a 5-mile tempo on the return on this loop, but the uphills killed me. They were just too long that by the time I got to the two miles of downhill at the end, I was wiped out and didn't want to run very fast.

I felt the holiday eating routine on top of the 15 pounds I gained and haven't taken off from my layoff in the fall. The hills made it that much worse. Watching my form in my shadow, I saw a jogger, nothing close to a runner. It disgusted me. Even on the downhills, when I had the aid of gravity, I looked no better.

I finally hit 50 miles last week, after several setbacks the previous weeks, which might have been good. I'm building my base, but the weight is holding me back. I've typically felt my best when running 70 miles a week, so I am close, but I also need to fortify my dietary discipline. I need better breakfasts to start my metabolism and have food ready for right after my runs. I spend too much time meandering after work and by the time I cook dinner, it's 8:30 or 9. Not a healthy lifestyle. So, the first step is to cook several meals one night and refridgerate them for other dinners. Second-of-ly, setting a firm bedtime, with plenty of margin for sleeplessness, will help me be able to wake up and eat a solid breakfast before work. Morning runs at this point are out of the question, but the days are getting longer...

Wabash Avenue from Noblestown Road.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Winter Thaw

I met up with Hans, Timmy Wu, Brandon G and Jeremy Snodgrass for a run at North Park- two five-mile loops around the lake. We ran the same course (though it's hard not to do so) as the annual Spring Thaw race in late February. The name is deceptive, since the race is in the winter and the ice rarely thaws for it.
I had a great race there in 2007, but less-than-stellar results the last two years. Beth Reinhart accelerated my cynicism about the race, saying she could run there any time she wants for free, and it's true. A lot of other races involve closing roads and running somewhere you usually don't, but the Spring Thaw involves none of that. It's a pretty steep registration fee to run a race like that. The t-shirts are also so ugly I usually only wear them under other clothes,and the sleeves are too short.
Regular runs there, however, are great. It's a rolling loop and vehicle traffic is light and there are almost always a lot of runners, walkers and bikers out there.
Jeremy said his Garmin had us at about 6:55 pace, which isn't too bad, given the amount of steak I ate at my dad's the night before. Delicious.
The rain yesterday did not freeze again, as I had feared, and it was about 42 when we came around for the second loop. Most of the snow had melted, making it an easier run that I had expected and putting me in a good mood. I really don't care much for snow.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Doing the work

There wasn't anything pleasant or idealistic about my Christmas morning run. It was 10 miles of disgusting slogging through freezing rain. I had to do it.
Initially I had planned to run the Christmas loop with Alex (see Favorite Pittsburgh Runs #5, coming soon), but he was planning on doing it in the afternoon and I was busy then, so I would up running alone. My mom and I drove out to Schenley Park, she ran around the golf course and I did most of my Beechwood loop, starting shortly after my normal six-mile mark. It was somewhat dispiriting to be nearing the end of a well-worn route but be much farther from the end. It didn't get much better when I was actually approaching the end- the driving rain made my legs numb and it wasn't fun at all.
The truth is, I feel like I still progressed because I did the entire run. I could have easily given up and taken the shortest route back to the park and my mom would have been pleased to go home early, but I just kept moving around the loop, dodging chunks of ice in the street and constantly on the lookout for slippery stretches.
That I just did the work is an encouraging development- that I am mentally tough enough to execute my training plans, however simple, in the face of miserable conditions. Enough of those days strung together might mean some improvement.
After staying up late on Christmas Eve, I'm ready to get to bed early and rest pretty well for 10 miles tomorrow around North Park with Hans and which ever Hounds show up.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

10th WPIAL alumni run

I made it to my mom's house around 2 am Christmas Eve and got right back up at 8 to get ready and go out to the Mt. Lebanon track for the annual WPIAL alumni run. We had a solid turnout in the 18 degree day: Greg Costello, Ryan Bell, Robin Garber, Ryan Sheehan, Dan Mazzacco, Brian Quinn, Dave Adley, Jeff Haines, Brandon G, Michelle Corkum, Timmy Wu, Greg Byrnes, Fonzie and Kyle Gibson. Not as big of a crew as last year, but alright.

We ran a rolling 8.2 mile loop we've stuck to the last few years at 7:20 pace. The loop is pretty tame, by Mt. Lebanon standards, but Brian Quinn kept asking about a huge hill, but I didn't recall it, until we turned onto Kane Boulevard and I saw it, and it hurt, but the easy pace helped the pain a little.

Afterward, we had greasy breakfast at Gab ' n Eat in Carnegie, a Lebo track and WPIAL alumni run favorite, featured in Where We Like to Eat 'nat

Marco Dozzi, Michelle Corkum and Brandon G. Gillingham
enjoy breakfast at Gab 'n Eat

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Favorite Runs Outside of Pittsburgh #4

C&O Canal Towpath Trail- Hancock, MD, Mile 124
There are 184.5 miles on this trail, so plenty of places to choose. I personally like the section around mile 124.
I can't remember when I first started running on the towpath, but I first came across it in June 2001, while waiting for my then-girlfriend to be dropped off in Hancock by her mother so I could bring her to Pittsburgh. It was a little more than halfway between Pittsburgh and DC, so I made it a regular stop on my trips.
The canal is a National Historic Park along the north bank of the Potomac, so in addition to increased maintenance, the trail has numerous educational displays, though I am rarely in a position to stop and read them. The parking lot in Hancock has a permanent bathroom building which is also maintained well. The dirt trail is soft but firm. I've rarely been crowded when running, and I often see other runners out there. Most of the route is shaded, and although the slope is very gradual, every now and then a quick hill breaks the monotony.
It's an easy 2.5 hour drive from Pittsburgh and 1.5 hours from DC, at the juncture of I-68, I-70 and US 522.
I typically run east and turn around, though that leaves me with a slight uphill on the way back.
In 2004, I started noticing a correlation regarding my runs on the Towpath. When I ran on the towpath after interviewing for a job, I would either get the job or advance in the application process. It was enough to make it part of my traveling routine.
The GRC frequently runs on the towpath, and one runner did nothing but Towpath runs for a while, giving him a nickname, but the stretch close to Georgetown feels distinctly different from the Hancock portion I enjoy so much. Maybe the eastern section is too close to the Clara Barton Parkway, maybe it's that I haven't traveled for 2+ hours to get there, but it isn't the same.

My coach Steve Taylor told me stories about workouts on the trail, which he also recalled in a Running Times article on his training partner Steve Spence:
"A month before the trials, Spence and Taylor completed a memorable 3-hour run. Starting comfortably, the pair gradually dropped the pace and really pushed the last 4 miles of what ended up being a 30-miler. "We were down in the 5:30 range for the 40 minutes leading up to the last 4 miles," Taylor recalls. "I ended up averaging 4:56 for the last 4 and Steve left me with a mile and half to go and averaged 4:51. After that run we knew we were ready." "
When I run my next marathon, I will likely do a point-to-point long run, assuming I can find someone else with whom to drive out there and either run or bike with me. I am excited to see more than eight miles at a time, since I have only done out-and-back runs so far. Although the trail has mile markers, I am not sure how accurate they are, so I would prefer to do that pre-marathon run with someone who has a bike-mounted odometer to confirm mileage.
I vividly remember a 16-mile run I did to the east Nov. 7, 2005, when I kept picking up speed on a perfect Sunday afternoon, on my way to Westminster, MD for an interview. That autumn, I spent a lot of time considering living in western Maryland, so it might have become one of my training mainstays, rather than a treat for when I travel.

It only took five days to clear these streets, eh?

I bring the Towpath trail up because I am briefly passing Hancock but not running there today, on my way back to Pittsburgh. Since I worked on Monday when I didn't have to, I took a break in the middle of the day with the extra time I had stashed away and ran around the mall in the snow. It was pleasant enough, I was able to wear shorts for a decent six miles.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Runs Gone Wrong #4

The uphill, four miles in. Pretty steep.

First WPIAL alumni run (December 2000)
I stumbled upon this when I came to visit Coach A during my first Christmas break as a college freshman. Scott Sehon was also stopping by, and he invited me to join him and some other gents from the WPIAL for a jaunt the next morning. I readily accepted, not too concerned that I had barely been running for the last month, even at my then-sedate Division III level.

Then next morning brought 10 degrees and heavy snow and strong winds, weather my thin nylon pants, part of my high school warmup suit, were not equipped to handle. As I met up with a group of 15 or so runners, all of whom were far, far more accomplished and at the most basic level able than I, I didn't really seem that intimidated. Chris Dugan, a several-time All-American in cross country and track at NC State and several-time state champion at Southmoreland High School, offered me a pair of his pants. My legs have never felt faster than when they were on those pants. However fast they felt, however, they didn't stay that way. The brutal climate, coupled with an increasing pace and hilly route, crushed me on the way back down the hill from Nevillewood, and on my way back on Scrubgrass, by feet had gigantic blisters on my arches. I managed to limp back to the Mt. Lebanon track and join the gang for breakfast at Gab 'n Eat, but I didn't run for days after.

Sehon agreed with the foolishness of the run nine years later. "The most absurd thing about that run was not that we did 13+ uphill to Nevillewood, but that we did it in sub-0 windchill temperatures. It was brutally cold that day," he said.

Despite how awful the run was, I gained a lot from the endeavor. It was the first time in months I remember running with someone else at a decent pace in a non-race environment, given my weak team at Hampden-Sydney. I had a chance to hear a lot from Division I runners and I realized that with a real training program, teammates and a competent coach, I could enjoy collegiate running. I also had a chance to talk to Roch for the first time, and he made quite an impression on me. A few of us discussed a shared acquaintance, who acted pretty spazzy and oafish, but Roch implored us to give him another chance. It was that simple gesture that won me over and motivated me to seek him out at races then after and eventually get involved in promoting the race held in his memory.

The downhill where I actually fell back, 8.25 miles in

Not quite so profound

My snowy run a few days before this year's alumni run, however, offered no such lessons. I adjusted a 6 on Park to be an easy 5.5 miles. There was a slight trail through the woods, and even though it was dark (yeah, a stupid idea to run in the snow, in the woods in the dark) I was able to follow the trench people has worn over that past four days.

I am hoping for a big turnout at this year's run, but you can never tell who will actually show up. I missed 2004 because I was in Richmond and 2006 because my mom lost my car keys the day before.

Monday, December 21, 2009

slow in the snow

Missing a run yesterday, and the likihood that I'll miss Wednesday, means I have to get in 10 miles a day to hit 50 this week. Alex was skeptical that I'd manage to get 10, given the amount of snow and ice on the roads, but I showed him! YEAH I DID. To be honest, it wasn't entirely pleasant- the stretch alone the W&OD had snow to about my knees, and many times I stopped and waited for cars to pass. For the most part, everything that should have been clear was. I got an earlier start because I left work early,though to be accurate I could have left whenever I wanted. The federal government had a snow day and evidently my office did too, though nobody mentioned that to me. The worst part of a work day for me is waking up, so as long as I had done so and gotten to the office, I figured I might as well stay and get things done, but I left with enough time to have some daylight for my run, but not terribly much. Whenever I had decent stretches of sold snow or pavement, I picked it up, but I mostly ran around 7:00 pace. The four laps of the Metro loop weren't terribly interesting, but it was a simple way to get two extra miles to make it about 10.2.

Slacks update

I hope to resume my search for my magical trousers when I return to Pittsburgh Wednesday night. No stone shall remain unturned, much to my mother's chagrin.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hound-on-Hound action

A few years ago, a Hound I will refer to as "Dad" posed a question to the pack- is there any new Hound-on-Hound action? His phrasing stuck me humorously, because plenty of athletic teams have romantic co-mingling, but that was just plain funny. I often hoped we could make an annual award of it at at year's end. I will take it upon myself to present the 2009 Hound-on-Hound Action award to these two.

Meanwhile, I didn't run today, spending most of the day in the car traveling between Williamstown, Ravenswood and DC.

"Diamond in the Rough"

Ryan Jobes was the kind of kid that we wanted for the Richmond track program. Oddly enough, the statement I remember first about him wasn't even accurate. A sports writer in West Virginia fabricated a quote from my coach Steve Taylor when writing a story about Jobes' committment to Richmond. "He's a diamond in the rough," Taylor said. "Now he's my diamond in the rough." I won't belabor the ethical considerations of fabrication, just refer you to Shattered Glass, but I will laugh about how creepy that sounded.
All I heard about from Lauder on the recruiting front our senior year was that we had to get Jobes. The kid was supposedly an amazing ping pong player, but also happened to run pretty fast, too, winning the 400, 800, 1600 and 4x4 relays at the West Virginia state meet, while leading Williamstown High School to back-to-back state track team titles. When he came for his official visit, I served as his host. That same weekend, a runner from Mt. Lebanon also came for a visit, and the weekend showed what it takes to succeed at the collegiate level and what you could get away with in high school. While Ryan conducted himself professionally- quite impressive for 17-year-old, my old teammate used the visit as a paid trip to get drunk with his high school buddy. Jobes would have impressed me enough on his own, but when contrasted with Dickerson's display, I disowned my high school and if asked to choose one of the two to join us at Richmond, I would have been totally in favor of Jobes.
I remember watching Airplane! with him when he got settled in my apartment. I was pretty busy that semester, so I stayed in a lot to work while he met the people with whom he would be running the next year, but he got along famously with the team. Danielle Binns had the hots for him, as I'm sure others did, too. Meanwhile, Dickerson showed up drunk to the recruiting dinner Saturday night.
Any questions about whether a dominant runner in the small school division in West Virginia would compete on the Division I level went to rest soon after he arrived. Rough or not, he was a diamond. Jobes came and he conquered the track and the hearts of the people who met him. On his way home for winter break in 2005, he died in a car accident on I-64. He was growing the way yuong men typically do, through trial and error, learning from mistakes and reconciling emotion with calculated intensity.
Every year, Ryan's family puts together a race to remember Ryan and raise money for a scholarship fund. His mom and stepfather Brenda Jobes and Mark Parker, and his sister Kristen take whatever Richmond track runners are able to get there into their home for the night (or weekend). We scatter along the course, taking it seriously, like Molz and Benford tend to, or enjoying a run, as I tend to (because I'm slow). I think Lauder races it because he and Jobes would be so competitive at everything. The shirts from the race I have collected end up as my cool-down, post-road race shirt.
I'm in an awkward position, in that I did not run with Ryan, having graduated before he arrived, and having only been a sporadic presence at practice, whereas Lauder was an assistant coach and study hall proctor his freshman year. I feel as though my presence is more of an imposition, because I don't offer the same insight or memories as the guys who bonded and grew with him. I'm out of place as the old guy who comes for some reason. I hope that whatever evaluation of their son, brother, stepson and friend I can offer, as the kind of man I was thrilled to see choose Richmond, is of some solace. I know there's nothing I can do to assuage the grief they still feel over his loss, but if I can distract them for a second that the other guys aren't doing so, I guess I have served some purpose. I
got a lot out of meeting more of Ryan's friends this year and spending time with his father John and stepmother Kim. Even if we didn't talk about Ryan, I saw them in their element, or wearing mementos of him throughout the day, like a Richmond track sweatshirt. I didn't think I would make it to Williamstown this year. Being in DC, I no longer had access to my mom's car, and the distance was somewhat prohibitive. Luckily, Brenda and Mark were helpful in putting me in touch with Mike Gaubinger, who was driving there after work on Friday and had room for me to come along, and I was able to reschedule a doctor's appointment that had been late Friday afternoon.
It's almost a pilgrimage to pay respects to a young man who motivated everyone to raise play a little harder. This year's race coincided with the worst snow storm to hit Virginia in 20 years. Molz and Neil had to turn back after two hours of driving- Lauder didn't even get out of the parking lot after work.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ryan Jobes 5k

Dec. 19, Ryan Jobes 5k- Williamstown, WV low 30s, snow, wind, flat looping course Parkersburg News and Sentinel story

My 18 minute warmup was the most miserable running experience I've had in a while as much as I pushed after a while, I couldn't accelerate beyond a jog. I stepped in a huge puddle and braced against this snow and wind. I had hoped, leading up to the race, to run 16:33, because cutting a minute off of my times as I struggled back into shape would be nice symmetry. Evaluating my pre-race condition, however, I realized that was a silly goal, and I would just run however I was able. The other guys convinced me to go with shorts for the race and just gut it out. I can't remember if I wore gloves. The course was a little different this year, with an additional block in the middle mile to make up for not using the Williamstown track as a finish. I welcomed that change from a racing perspective, though I knew finishing on the track held a special significance for Ryan. The high school kids took it out fast, as always. I ran the first block with Fatty Z, but after the first turn started to move up through the pack. Benford was out head with what looked to be two people, and Hunter lead a chase pack. As I approached it, Hunter glided back. About four minutes into the race, I was ahead of the chase pack and feeling pretty good. I hit the mile in 5:15, which made me think I had a chance to hit 16:33 after all. I wanted to throw in a few surges to keep myself on the ball, and did so at THE HILL, which, although only a few feet of elevation is the biggest incline in town. It also coincided with Ryan's house, so I ran a little harder for him there. Unfortunately, unlike the way he raced, I didn't sustain it and demolish everyone else. I heard someone on my heels a few blocks farther along the course. I waved a white flag with subtlety as I rounded a corner, veering out of the way of the puddle that soaked me during my warmup. That showed I wasn't willing to do what it took to really push it. Whoever was behind me, I kept them off for a while, but my mood changed when I hit the two mile mark- 5:37. That isn't going to get me to no 16:33, not at all. My chances of really picking it up and hitting a massive negative split were slim, so I planned to do what it took to hold off the guy behind me. I didn't feel like I had slowed down, though with no leaders in sight it was hard to gauge that. I guess that's the lack of real speedwork catching up to me. I tried to use those surges to avoid falling into complacency. As I hit the second-to-last stretch before the end, Hunter flew past me. I tried to go with him for a few seconds, but my breath wasn't there. Steve was cheering at the last turn, and to my own disgust, I glanced back at the corner to see how much room I had. This, five years after Steve told me he would strangle me if I ever looked back in a race again, giving my pursuers hope I was fading. Hunter finished under 17, but I was not so strong, trudging in at 17:08. Benford edged out an younger kid at 15:26, and that third fellow must have been a figment, because I wound up fourth. It makes sense I'm a 17:08 5k runner now- I was running 45 miles that week, my highest weekly total since August. I wasn't dong real workouts, besides some fartleks and hills. I'm also about 15 pounds over my standard racing weight. The snow and wind didn't help, but I've done fine in those conditions before. I did the standard Williamstown cooldown- a run across the Ohio River into Marietta, Ohio, and back. Regan and Hunter and I cut it short, for about 2.5 miles. I had 8 miles total, for a weekly 45 miles.

Friday, December 18, 2009


I had a dream last night where people talked about how dumb it was to think about running before work. Sure enough, I woke up at 6:15 and that dream made a lot of sense when I check the 24 degree temperature , so I guess I'll just be hitting 45 miles this week. Things could be worse...

I took an awful lot to work with me today, including items for the office food drive and a bottle of Courvoisier as a gift for Jason's Christmas party tomorrow night. After dropping off the bag of food in the kitchen, I returned to my office. While reorganizing my backpack, I realize the Courvoisier was gone and figured out I put it in the bag I left for the food drive, along with the cornbread I made for the GRC holiday party. When I returned to the kitchen, a group was having coffee and I realized how bad it would have looked to take a bottle of cognac out of a donation bin, regardless of who placed it in there. I walked laps around the office while I waited to the kitchen to be clear so I could reclaim my mistaken submissions. I managed to slip the bottle into my pocket and the cornbread was wrapped in aluminum foil, so it was clearly not intended for a food drive, but I still didn't want to be caught re-ganking a bottle of booze.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


"Don't attack a hill from the bottom -- it's bigger than you." -former Penn State coach Harry Groves (left)

"&#@*!"- Harry Groves, the first time I met him

Adjusting to DC/northern Virgina's lack of hills, relative to Pittsburgh, has been challenging and a constant concern. I no longer get the secondary strength workouts intrinsic in tackling the hills common to any route I would run before, so I route many of my runs on Highland Ave, with either a steep or a long incline depending on the direction. I chose that for a light hill workout. Highland itself is .51 miles long, and I ran it so that the .35 uphill preceeded the .16 downhill. I ran about 3:05 for four repetitions, though I admittedly forgot how long a half mile uphill was and burned out early. I also didn't take the downhills too fast. I coupled that with a .84-mile recovery loop. A decent and easy workout.
Got a total of 7.5 miles.

Runs Gone Wrong #5

Before my trip to the Richmond Marathon - November 2009
Just four weeks into my renewed running routine, I didn't have much pressure to pile on mileage, but I also wanted to just get things moving along. I had a 7 pm train ride to Richmond to watch the marathon, and with two hours to spare after work I decided to make a trip to the bank and a run around the Mall, a total of six miles. I made it a little more than two miles. Once I reached the Mall, I started to feel woozy. My heartrate picked up, and I slowed to a jog, then a walk, then I sat down on a bench, then a curb, then the ground. I realized pretty quickly that I wasn't going to make the full six miles, so I started to trot back to the office, but soon that too was too much effort. As I caught my breath, the mid-November chill got to me, and I faced the dilemma -- whether to get back to the office fast and possibly pass out or walk and be really cold. I compromised and slowed my gallop when I got dizzy. I had eaten lunch at noon, so I didn't think that was a factor, but I realized I had my debit card in my pocket from my trip to the bank, so I stopped at Au Bon Pain and bought a danish, which helped a little, but then I saw a McDonald's and reduced myself to buying a meal there. It was terrible, but I made it back to the office, showered and got on the train, where I waited for an hour and a half past the departure time for a replacement engine to be attached.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Favorite Runs outside of Pittsburgh #5

Ohio is famous for its long expanses of nothing, punctuated by the morass of ego in Columbus that subsides after a semi-regular defeat to the University of America's Wang. The state was named after Gerrard Ohio, first governor of Colorado. If you're looking for significant hills, you're generally out of luck, because Gov. Ohio refused to export any back to the east.

In this wasteland of broken dreams is hidden a gem, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Centered around the Cuyahoga River, it's never cold, because the burning river keeps runners and bikers warm year-round.
In all seriousness, I enjoy Cleveland. I haven't run this one in a while. My grandmother used to live in Brecksville, a great suburb to the south, with an arm of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park nearby. The towpath trail has accurate mile markers, pleasant surroundings, and low traffic. Even a few inclines dot the terrain.

The trail is mostly paved, but open 24 hours. It stretches more than 30 miles between Cleveland and Akron, but I frequently started around the 17 mile mark and headed seven miles south to Penninsula and back.

The last time I was there was not to run, but to take my then-92-year-old grandmother for a walk. Her mobility was limited at that point, but her short-term memory wasn't great, so I was able to convince her that we had just started walking, when we had really been out for a half hour or so. If this in anyway accelerated her decline a year later, I am still glad I pushed her, because it was a beautiful day and she told me on several occasions that she was having a great time. We sat down at a bench and toyed with an inchworm. We would let him walk across our hands, then onto another hand, putting him on what amounted to a treadmill. My grandmother remarked about how it tickled when the inchworm walked across her hand, and she laughed about how he walked so much but didn't get anywhere.

Nothing (interesting) to see here

Wednesday night, I recovered with an easy 5 miles with Sean from the GRC store, Elyse and Libby.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I'm downright terrible at talking on the phone. Maybe it's because I talk to sources for stories almost exclusively and when I am not at work I don't want to think about it. There are so many times I've been interrupted by a work call in the middle of something recreational (usually from Dave Williams) that I had to change my incoming call ring because I developed a negative Pavlovian response to my old ringtone.

Jon Lauder, one of my good friends of similar temperment, and I spoke in 2007 about all sorts of things, but at one point I gave up and asked if I could just e-mail him. I can think of no reason why I'd rather e-mail my friend than talk on the phone besides that I am just bad with the phone.
Gillian Bernard and I used to schedule a block of time on Thursdays to talk about business. I couldn't fathom it now, but put us in a room and we can talk all day. Even my dad, the Rocket, don't talk too long, as much as I love him. Just getting the call and a voice mail is enough for me. I'd much rather hang out with him and watch a golf tournament in the middle of winter when the golfers are somewhere much warmer.
It's a fair bit troubling, but I know that in person things are fine with all of these people.

I can keep up a phone conversation with the following people:
Nate Wildfire
Sara Eckleberry
Tom Slosky
Melissa Wilf
Tim Aldinger
Julie Hufnagel

Anyway, I did a 2:30 on/2:30 off fartlek with 10 minutes warmup and cooling down at the end, averaging 6:20 pace for 8 miles on the Pimmet 8, simply extending with two loops of the Haycock half and an out-and-around loop in Pimmet Hills. Felt good.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Doc and Hollywood (a takeoff on an old movie title...aw forget it)

Tried out eight miles on my new Hollywood loop, named for Hollywood Road, which wraps around National Memorial Park in east Vienna, at 6:04 pace. I wore my Gutbuster shirt, which was long sleeved, and was probably too much for the 42 degrees and high humidity. I always tend to overestimate how cold it is when I am getting dressed to run. The loop is a nice out and back on rolling hills and the mostly quiet Hollywood Road. Little traffic.

I quickly grew attached to the Gutbuster shirt. Dan Holland's father Harry, a CMU art professor started the race in 1977 and his mom took over the management after Harry's death. Harry also designed the logo, and someday I will add a picture of it. Brandon G told me he was up for running both the YMCA Turkey Trot and the Gutbuster (they started an hour apart) so I got the last shirt- an extra large. It's roomy, but light enough that the extra material doesn't weight much. It's white, so it's good for running at night, and the distinguished design is more pleasant than the garish Spring Thaw shirts, though the back features a logo for which I don't care much. I also like the shirt because the race has been a family project for Dan, his mom, wife and children for years.

In other Hounds news, Matt Meurer is scheduled for knee and leg surgery in the morning, and if that guy hasn't had enough running maladies, well I'm not sure what he did to deserve them. He's one of the strongest emotionally and determined runners I have met. The way he has focused himself on excellence despite his history of injury is at once admirable and downright counterintuitive. He felt a crunch in his knee at the end of the Steelers 5k this August and hasn't felt right since. I can't wait until he's able to train consistently again, even though I won't be around for it. His wife, Hilary, began running this fall, and in an odd twist of irony, he became the one cheering for her as she ran a 5k and a half-marathon relay leg.


This is the outside of my office building- Republic Square, on Massachusetts Avenue in the northern part of Capitol Hill. It's a major upgrade from the Valley News Dispatch building, which is mostly vacant, sits across the street from a building that leans dramatically in a borough that is distressed to the point where my ex-girlfriend once voiced her concerns about the state of decay. For context- she grew up relatively close to Detroit. As you can see from this picture, the Republic Square management is seasonally attuned and enthusiastic about celebrating the holidays. Which is all well and good. Another benefit to this new job is that I now have a window.

That window is blocked by the wreath and huge ribbon that looks like a big pair of red pants. Dynamite...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Modest reinvigoration

I planned to get up at 6:45, take the Metro into the city, cheer for the GRC running the Jingle all the Way 10k, plus Marley, then run around the city. Unfortunately, little goes as well as I plan it at 2:15 the night before. When I woke up, I heard a a driving rain, checked the temperature (33 degrees) and gave up on it. Thankfully, I had only met two of the GRC team members running that race and I'll see Marley next week, so I don't think anyone was that torn up about my decision to sleep in. That did leave me, however, needing to run later in the day. Luckily, Alex was willing to put in a solid LaMarr Woodley. We handled the loop at 6:52 pace- decent, compared to yesterday's athletic miscarriage. I relented and wore tight running pants, and thanked myself, because there was still a strong freezing rain, but luckily no problems with the road. I felt a lot better after the run, too, and enjoyed some delicious egg rolls. They weren't from the Sichuan House, but you can't always get what you want, I guess.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A day of great contrast

I decided early Saturday morning to scrap the tempo run from the store, since most of the team was racing in Kentucky or preparing the Jingle all the Way 10k the next day. What I got from turning off my alarm and sleeping until I was ready to get up was much more valuable than a tempo run with Chuck (no offense). The problem was, waking at 11:30 then managing to keep putting off my run until 2 meant I wasn't eating beforehand, and when I started running, I was going on a fast of more than 15 hours since i had some stromboli and carrots at Mary's party the night before, almost 24 hours since my last meal to speak of at NACo's holiday party. Four miles into wandering around Pimmet Hills, I was pretty much cooked, with no energy and little more enthusiasm, besides the desire to explore what could be a good neighborhood with little traffic.

Luckily, I had two interesting podcasts to keep me company as I slogged out about 7.5-8 miles. During some runs, I really need to listen to something so I avoid going too hard, in hopes of getting home faster. With a podcast, I have a human voice keeping me company and teaching me something, so I am accomplishing some simultaneous physical and intellectual enrichment, but I wonder how much of the mental and emotional utility of training runs is eroded when I am aided by my mp3 player. I don't want to be someone who needs to listen to something when he runs, and I am confident I won't get to that point, but I am trying to balance how much I use the podcasts. I also feel like it is different than if I listened to music.

In other news, I decided to place my hamper in the shower. I was keeping it in the bathroom, and it just seemed cluttered, but since my shower is out of use for 23 hours and 53 minutes a day, it is much easier to simply move the hamper when I am showering. I'm so friggin smart...

Meanwhile, in Lexington, KY, the GRC guys ran to a 19th place finish at the club cross country national championships, and in San Diego, Rad Guzenhauser was the first Mt. Lebanon runner to compete in the Footlocker Cross Country meet, finishing 24th. It doesn't quite make up for the team not making states, but it is remarkable that our first Footlocker qualifier was a kid who didn't win either WPIAL or state championships. We've had really good guys come through- Greg Costello, Shawn Cavanaugh (who didn't run Footlocker), Jim O'Toole, and each of them was dominant at least on the WPIAL level. Rad lost a few times to the NA kid, and maybe continuing to fight despite those loses prepared him more for the northeast meet when he wasn't in the lead. Or maybe he had some abilities the other guys didn't, or maybe it was just the race for him.

As much as my competitive side wishes I had gone to Kentucky with the GRC guys, I am just three weeks into running with them and I'm also in downright horrible shape. It would have been fun,though.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chilly breeze

Having put off my mile workout the day before, Thursday's run was supposed to be 3-4xmile with a 600-meter recovery. Since I want to run 16:33 next time I race a 5k, I figured 5:20 pace was a good target. Unfortunately, compared to Wednesday's balmy terperatures in the mid 50s, Thursday night's temperatures dipped to 32 when I got out to the track at George Mason high school, a convenient half mile from my apartment. I brought the Puma flats the rep gave me in the spring- I didn't much enjoy racing in them, so they are now my workout flats. My first lap was, naturally, way too fast- 76, and I focused on slowing down over the rest of the mile- 5:19. Pretty happy with that. The second mile was still fast at the beginning, but I again managed to calm it down to 5:19. By the third mile I felt like my legs were honest enough -- tired out from the previous two intervals -- that I would start to feel like I would in a race, and my first two laps reflected that- even 80s, but when I checked by 1000 split, I noticed my watch was stopped at 2:40- I must have hit the wrong button at 800. I don't remember consciously doing so, but I started jogging in the outside lanes while I ascertained what happened. Then I realized I was wearing shorts and the wind was starting to pick up, so I changed my shoes, put on my warmup pants and went home.

I stayed up to follow (not even watch or listen, because I have no tv and couldn't find a radio broadcast) the Steelers-Browns game, which actually made me feel better about my workout. It was downright pathetic, losing to what has been the worst in a long line of Browns teams. I don't have much animosity toward the Browns- as my family largely lives in Cleveland and my mom grew up there, and they are largely the object of pity (the team, not my family), but I am sure the loss was devastating to the populace of Pittsburgh and made me glad I don't live there anymore. I have largely divorced myself of deep emotional connections to the Steelers, having found other teams on which to pin my hopes in times of struggle (the Chiefs and Saints in 2003, the Patriots in 2006) and I actually found myself more miserable after the Pats lost to the Giants in 2008 than any other time the Steelers were eliminated. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the Steelers' recent Super Bowl victory, but I am in no funk following the loss to the Browns. I just don't feel as bad for the Browns anymore...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Boring Wednesday

I posed a mile workout to the GRC, but by mid-day Wednesday I had no takers and I was running low on energy, so I scrapped the workout and headed to the store for a distance run, on a bus, which was a huge mistake. It took 45 minutes to get to Georgetown and by the time I got there and ran a few blocks, Chuck was waiting and said everybody left already. Since I was there already, I figured I might as well run there, so we chased the group down the towpath, but realized if we caught them, they probably wouldn't be going a pace we wanted, so we turned around and ran along the waterfront in Georgetown for a bit, then finished with a little more than five miles.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Can't find my slacks

Since moving in the middle of October, I have repeatedly failed to locate a prized pair of off-white slacks. This has caused me no limit of distress, because I really enjoyed them. I have scoured my closet and storage containers in my apartment, and headed directly for my closet in Pittsburgh when I was home for Thanksgiving- to no avail. I looked in my mom's attic- no success there either. It was a great pair of slacks.

Aw sleet...

I recovered from Monday's overdistance with a six-mile loop from home, at 6:25 pace. With two miles left, the sleet started up, and even though it stung when it hit my skin, that was all, and I didn't really mind it. I would have preferred the sleet on a longer-distance run, because I really enjoyed it after a while. It woke me up.

Monday, December 7, 2009

I make some new friends for about five minutes, but manage not to alienate any of them immediately

After weeks of missed opportunities and conflicting schedules, Melissa and I got together for a run, our first since my disastrous sleep study in late October. I planned a seven-mile run- a mile and a half from my office to the Smithsonian, four around the mall with Melissa, then the run back. I ended up running 12 miles

After a sedate but enjoyable jaunt around the Mall, we neared the end of our run and we came across a group of athletic-looking youngsters. Melissa suggested I go for a run with them, and when a representative of the group reacted favorably, I figured, why not. Well, after four miles of 8:30 pace, my legs were itching to go, even if I convinced my mind that the day would be entirely social. After bunching up with at a traffic light, I wound up in the front, running with a fellow named Tony and his friend Susannah, I think. When I looked back, I realized we left everyone behind, and soon Susie was gone, too. So I chatted a bit with Tony and I stretched the sum of my city running, headed back to the office to grab my clothes and meet the people I with whom I did but didn't really run for dinner. I had the second-worst calamari in my life, the worst being at Olive or Twist March 3, 2007.
Then I got tired and went home, having met some new people, but not terribly optimistic I'd see them again. It happens...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

See you in hell, snow

I slept(?) eight hours Saturday night, sleeping in Sunday in hopes that the snow and ice would have melted in the meantime. They hadn't. It wasn't so much of a problem as an annoyance, because a mile of my planned eight-mile run (LaMarr Woodley 8) was on the W&OD Trail, and unlikely to be either plowed or untouched since it fell a day before. It was pesky to deal with frozen footprints and uneven ground, but at least it was all on top of a hard surface that I usually curse when there is no snow. I hit plenty of rolling hills, which is one reason I'm starting to like running in Falls Church- it's not Pittsburgh, but I can still get a few moderate hills in the residential areas, and I rarely have to stop for traffic. It definitely beats the city in that regard.
Despite it being 40 degrees, I still should have worn pants, because the ice that i kicked up ended up scratching the inside of my thighs and knees and it felt turrible afterward.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

I guess I needed those spikes, after all...

I got up early Saturday to take the Metro out to Bethesda in the freezing rain, but when I was above ground in Maryland, it was snowing like a motherjammer. Jake had some field scoped out for a cross country workout and it turned out to be fantastic. Not because I had a great workout — I didn’t — but because it reminded me of Bandy Field in Richmond, which I never saw with that much snow on it, and with it put me in the cross country training mindset; because I had a good old savage beating to put me in my place and because I felt truly outmatched by the elements.
While I was home for Thanksgiving, I considered bringing spikes back with me, but I didn’t think I would need them any time soon. In the words of an Angry Alaskan I know, “wrong-o, wrong-o, wrong-o.” Running on a grassy/muddy field covered in snow in trainers was honestly one of the hardest things I have done for a long time in running. The workout was a rotation of one guy taking the lead and pushing the pace for between one and four minutes. I lasted all of about 90 seconds on the first interval, letting up with deep gasps from a body that was straining from the effort but more basically struggling to keep myself moving forward.
I went from being sure I could really push it and keep up with the pack if I chose to during the kilometers a few days before (on a snowless track) to having no chance whatsoever to keep up in the snow. Every time I tried to run with any intensity, I slipped. I gave up on the workout very early, to avoid discouraging myself, stepping in a hole and destroying and ankle in my haste, or tearing my hips apart. I ended up chasing the pack and trying to keep a moderate pace going and stay on my feet. Despite the difficulty, I liked the workout, because I doubt I’ll face footing that bad again. It was nice to get about 10 miles on soft grass, too. Then I napped for three hours.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I guess I might as well go ahead and start blogging

Since it seems the rest of the Georgetown Running guys have training blogs, I might as well start publishing the details of my attempted return to serious competitive running. In retrospect, it would have been a lot more useful to keep track of my training when I was actually running well. Oh well